I have a confession: I actually finished this book two weeks ago but am just now writing the review. Although many of my reviews wait to be written until the next day (an unsurprisingly large number of books are finished late at night, after I should be asleep), I’ve never waited two weeks before! After a few hours to get my thoughts in order, I try to write when a book is still fresh in my mind. Oh well, the holidays will throw off even the best of plans.

 

Picture Perfect

 

Picture Perfect, by Jodi Picoult, was a hauntingly beautiful book. The only other book I had read by Picoult was My Sister’s Keeper, which was good but not great. The premise of the book is a failed marriage and a woman’s struggle to find out who she is, so I was willing to give the author another try.

Cassie Barret is a world-famous anthropologist. She has traveled all over the world discussing her work, has been published in magazines and books, and teaches classes at UCLA. Her husband Alex Rivers, is a handsome actor who just got nominated for an Oscar. They live in a mansion in LA that belongs on the set of Gone With The Wind. Everything in their life has been a fairytale, down to the whirlwind romance and wedding on the set of Alex’s movie in Africa. Yet one day Cassie wakes up in a cemetery with no memory of what happened or who she is, and the fairytale ends.

Cassie is beautiful, intelligent, and driven to succeed in both her career and marriage. Yet her best efforts to be the perfect wife cannot stop the emotional and physical abuse she has endured for years at the hands of her famous husband. After a childhood spent taking care of a broken family, Cassie falls in love with Alex so she can fix his pain; in turn, Alex loves Cassie because she is the only person he can stop being a famous actor with and just be a man. Picture Perfect paints a painfully clear picture of the cycles of domestic violence so many women endure: a fight for little or no reason, violence, promises to never do it again, a period of calm and rekindled romance, only to get into another fight and start over again. Cassie believed the fights were always her fault, and that it was better to take the physical pain from Alex than let him deal with the emotional pain and pressure of his job. Despite Alex’s promises that he will get better, be nicer, love her more, eventually his anger comes back.

Yet this book throws a twist into the story, when Cassie losses her memory after a particularly violent fight. Alex is given a chance to rebuild their marriage by only telling her the happy parts of their past, and for a while it works. But slowly her memory begins to return and Cassie realizes that as much as she may love Alex, she cannot fix him. Staying in a dangerous marriage will eventually kill her, but leaving will hurt Alex more than she can bear.

I’m lucky that I have never been in an abusive relationship, but I have seen friends and family choose to stay with someone when they should have left. Watching someone you love choose love for a broken person over their own personal safety is hard, and reading about it is no easier. I cried many times during this book, and a happy fairytale ending is not guaranteed. Yet the raw emotions Picoult explored in this book make it impossible to put down and simply walk away from the characters. I loved this book because of its ability to elicit strong emotional responses from readers and its memorable main character.

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